It doesn't pay to kill big game illegally, Division of Wildlife Officials say, and it really doesn't pay to kill trophy big game illegally.
If a six-point bull elk is killed illegally, an additional $10,000 fine will be imposed. For a big horn sheep, the additional fine is $25,000. Added costs can pile on for those who are from out of state and have to return for court appearances, said Steve Yamashita, assistant regional manager of the Northwest Region of the Division of Wildlife.
"That is the point," Yamashita said. "We put in there an incentive for people to do it right. I don't know many people who can fork over $25,000."
Although not among the most common offenses, killing big game illegally, especially trophy sized ones, carries the largest fine.
The more common violations and the ones with lower fines are forgetting to bag animals and display their tags correctly, having loaded firearms in moving vehicles and trespassing.
The DOW encourages landowners to have hunters on their property.
"When people do it illegally, it jeopardizes that for other people," Yamashita said.
As with driver's licenses, hunting licenses work on a point system and trespassing can be a 20-point violation, the amount needed for a license to be suspended for up to five years.
Yamashita also reminds hunters to ride all terrain vehicles only on roads where they are allowed.
Yamashita said the DOW will have random check stations around the state and any hunter driving through is obligated to stop.
One of the biggest changes hunters should take note of this year, Yamashita said, is a state and federal law requiring all hunters to provide Social Security numbers when buying or applying for hunting and fishing licenses.
The DOW gave hunters a year to get used to the new requirement, Yamashita said, but no licenses will be issue without Social Security numbers this year.
Another change from last year, Yamashita said, is no mandatory test for chronic wasting disease. Last year there were mandatory sites on the Front Range, but all sites have voluntary testing this year, Yamashita said.
Last year hunters had to adjust to the revision of the Colorado hunting statutes, something that happens about once every five years.
One of the most significant changes was a larger fine for those caught bagging big game without licenses.
Before the cost of the license was more expensive than the price of the fine, giving some hunters an economic incentive not to buy licenses. The laws have changed so that any hunter caught without a license will have to pay twice the amount of the most expensive license for that species.
Another law makes it illegal to use handheld radios to aid in committing a wildlife offense. The law is intended to prevent hunters who have killed an animal without a license from using a handheld radio to signal another hunter with a license to come and tag the animal.
Another change in 2003 was a $2,000 fine for anyone caught using night vision equipment to kill game. With outdoor catalogues and outdoor surplus stores, there has been a proliferation of night vision equipment.
Hunters can use night vision equipment to scope out the game, similar to spot lighting, but they cannot be carrying a gun. n